Bicycle Thieves vs. The Bicycle Thief

Brandon Analysis, Essay, Film, Moviemaking, Movies

Though De Sica is careful to remind us that lots of people are in a similar situation to Ricci, he takes even greater pains to portray Ricci as an individual separate from groups. In the first bicycle theft scene, De Sica uses deep space and deep focus to reinforce the idea. The camera pans left as a group of three men at center frame walk by Ricci’s bicycle. Ricci, headless in the frame and slightly out of focus, works high on his ladder in the foreground, providing one plane in the depth of field. The bike rests against the wall in the middle plane and slightly more towards center frame, while one of the three men splits off from the group and reverses direction towards the camera from a third, deeper, more-in-focus plane. He stares at the bike, like a lion after his prey. For a moment, the composition draws a direct line between Ricci and the man, placing the bike in the middle. Deep focus draws attention to the man as connecting to the group of three, while blurring Ricci in the foreground, isolating him. Now, throughout the rest of the scene we connect everyone of focus outside of Ricci to this man. So when the bike is stolen, everyone seems to be in on the act. By portraying a group, a pack, preying on the individual who steals Ricci’s bike, De Sica forces Ricci to lose his trust in his fellow man.

We gain further insight into this loss of trust with the various bike market scenes. As Bruno, Ricci, and his divided group of friends stumble throughout the markets, we are greeted again by De Sica’s masterful use of mise-en-scène. The market is full of commotion and chaos as bikes are paraded throughout the crowd. On what often seems to be an endless amount of tables and racks are hundreds, maybe thousands, of bike parts. Like with the sheets earlier, the viewer easily is led to believe the bikes’ all belonged to someone. And again, since De Sica has managed to attach a strong metaphor to the object, in this case a bike, the scene is haunting: a person’s trust stolen and ripped apart, repackaged, and put on display for the world to buy. Along with Ricci, the viewer begins to lose hope for the future. How can you rebuild when so many broken pieces are floating around intermingled and indistinguishable?

This is one of the major questions that De Sica’s film is asking. His answer only becomes clear with the films ending. Ricci abandoning all trust in humanity decides to betray humanity’s trust in him. Like a child acting out against his parents, he attempts to steal a bike and fails. When he is caught, we get a short scene with shot reverse-shot, focusing on the POV of the victim of his crime, presented by the crowded frame as a synecdochical symbol of the group. He, the parent judging the child, looks from Bruno, Ricci’s son, to Ricci. He has a moment of realization and decides not to press charges. Forgiving the individual, his child, he says, “The man has enough trouble already”. They let Ricci go. This man’s action is contrasted with the people surrounding Ricci. They claim, had it been them, they would have done something about it, which represents reality. Then Ricci walks the long walk. All around him the city bustles with commotion. A car bumps into Ricci. He starts to cry. And the final shot is a wide shot of Ricci blending into the crowd, becoming indistinguishable from everyone else. De Sica calls for this kind of forgiveness and trust. He wishes for group’s to have the compassion for the individual that a parent has for a child: the capacity to forgive a great transgression. He wants us to recognize that we are all part of the same whole.